Bi-Lo Holdings said Tuesday that Randall Onstead was departing as its president and CEO effective March 1.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company, parent of the Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie chains, said it has identified a successor for Onstead, but would name the successor at a later date. The company declined to comment on the reasons for the change.
Onstead has been associated with Bi-Lo, and its parent company Lone Star Holdings, since 2008 when he was named chairman of Bi-Lo, then a stand-alone company. Following Bi-Lo’s acquisition of Winn-Dixie in 2012, Onstead took over as president and CEO of the combined companies, known as Bi-Lo Holdings. Onstead subsequently led the 2013 acquisition of the Sweetbay, Reids and Harveys divisions from Delhaize.
The company filed for an Initial Public Offering in September of 2013, but abandoned those plans last summer. The chain subsequently closed 23 stores in November. It operates more than 800 stores and generated 2014 sales of $11.5 billion, according to SN’s Top 75 estimates.
Although Bi-Lo has not commented on its financial results, industry observers told SN they believe the company has struggled to improve its performance — which may have been a factor in calling off its IPO. Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo’s respective rivals, Publix and Food Lion, each have reported sales gains over the last year, while alternative formats like Aldi, Walmart and Trader Joe’s have expanded in the Southeast.
“With very aggressive new competitors like Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club, there just isn’t a lot of room on the traditional supermarket side for a second player, especially when you have a dominant player like Publix in your market as Winn-Dixie does,” said Mark Heckman, a Florida-based retail consultant. Winn-Dixie’s takeover of Sweetbay stores was successful in some locations, Heckman added, “but where Winn-Dixie has struggled is where Sweetbay struggled — in taking those stores up to a level with Publix.”
The Florida Times-Union newspaper, which broke the story of Onstead’s departure Tuesday, said Onstead had closed on the purchase of $2.1 million home in the Jacksonville area last year.
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